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Fast Food at Vanessa’s Dumpling House

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Take a quick glimpse at Sally Davies’ Happy Meal Project and you will be deterred from eating another hamburger from a fast food joint ever again or at least for a few guilt-free months as the memory of frozen-in-time beef patties disappears from your mind. But I am not here to preach about the slow food movement or the values of healthy eating from locally sourced products. By no means am I a foodie or a health nut. Sometimes a girl only has a couple of dollars to spare and limited patience to figure out what to eat. Thankfully I just moved to one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. And with that comes a plethora of food choices to indulge my every want and need.

My new favorite spot is a small, bustling space on Eldridge Street in Chinatown called Vanessa’s Dumpling House. Usually full of locals and lunchtime purveyors, a good telltale sign of business, it is the quintessential spot for traditional Chinese fare at a deeply discounted price. You want food fast? You get it here. You want food cheap? No need to look further. You want fancy dining? You should jump ship immediately. This is a local favorite known for their fried pork and chive dumplings that only cost a $1 for four.

The sesame pancakes are must-try as well. Spongy and delightfully chewy ranging from roast beef, pork and most notably Peking Duck, these large pizza slice portions provide enough sustenance on their own.

But if you need to satiate a sweet tooth, grab a bubble tea (above) or a smoothie, nice dessert-like options from the relatively sweet-free menu.

Word of advice before you venture into Chinatown to try out the cheap eats at Vanessa’s.

1. Know what you want before you line up to order. Locals grow impatient when they have to wait for the indecisive. The cashier can only deal with those who know what they want. Take a glimpse at the large menu posted outside or peruse their options here.

2. Learn to wait. A sea of people have ordered before you and you must get used to the idea of waiting up to 20 minutes. This is food made to order, not waiting for you under a heat lamp.

3. Listen up and don’t embarrass yourself. When your number is called, act quickly or the line cooks and servers will continue to shout your number louder and louder until you sheepishly creep up to the counter to retrieve your food.

4. Plan to sit down somewhere else. This is take-out food. Finding a seat in this small space is almost always impossible. Besides, in the midst of an enthusiastic high of finding such good, inexpensive treats, you might unintentionally elbow the patron next to you or begin eating his food without noticing. It’s best to eat at home or the Whole Foods on the Bowery.

Vanessa’s Dumpling House also offers cabbage and pork dumplings, steamed vegetable buns, a variety of soups including the classic Wonton soup, as well a bevy of side dishes. I have yet to try these myself, but I am sure I will make more trips to Eldridge Street when I have to part with the few dollars left in my wallet.

Vanessa’s Dumpling House
118 Eldridge St. between Broome and Grand Streets
212-625-8008

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